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15th death reported among ex-Ssangyong workers

A former worker of Ssangyong Motor was found dead Tuesday at a subcontractor’s plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, the company’s union said Wednesday.

His death is the 15th among Ssangyong Motor’s former employees or their family members, which recently completed a bailout program after bankruptcy.
According to the union, the 45-year-old man identified by the family name Kang was working at the plant as a temporary worker after being laid off by Ssangyong in 2009. Around 9 a.m. Tuesday, he said he felt dizzy and left to lie down a but never returned. When his colleagues found him, he was lying dead on the floor at the place where he had gone to rest. There was no sign of foul play, police said.

Unionists claim that Kang and thousands of other regular workers were under extreme stress stemming from the loss of their jobs, though Kang managed to get a job at a subcontractor later.

After Ssangyong Motor was “abandoned” by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. in January 2009 after an aborted takeover negotiation, the Korean company classified a total of 2,600 workers as redundant, forcing them to resign or giving out one-year of unpaid vacation. Those who left for the vacation remain unemployed.

Four of the 15 deaths were suicides, and unionists say each of the four lived in extreme poverty.

According to a report by the Green Hospital last month, about 80 percent of the dismissed workers desperately need therapy and other medical measures to ease their stress. The chances of them suffering from depression were also 3.74-times higher than that of the average person.

“The government, Ssangyong Motor and civic groups should join hands to solve the issue,” an official of the minor opposition New Progressive Party said Wednesday. “We are sorry that our social security system isn’t enough to save them. It’s time we talked about ways to guarantee the lives of others.”

By Bae Ji-sook (